An extended Irish family serves as the backbone that supports Maureen Dyer Ickroth’s faith, beliefs and newfound passion for photography. She has enjoyed the opportunity to practice her craft so much that she has earned a spot this year as one of the new additions to the 29th Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8.
The event, sponsored by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, unites more than 100 artisans and fine crafters from all over Delmarva. Ickroth, who works out of a studio in her Bethany Beach home, said she is thrilled to be a part of such an event, and never imagined she’d be where she is today.
“Photography is something I really enjoy now,” she said. “I’m just doing it because it makes me happy.”
Though a newcomer to the event, she said isn’t intimidated — for, while a camera is in her hand, she can seemingly do no wrong.
Ickroth’s career began as a marketing manager for Prince George’s Community College in Maryland. “Part of my job during that time was photography,” Ickroth said. “They were always short-staffed, and they’d ask me, ‘Can you do this?’ That’s how I learned graphic design and illustrations. Eventually, I learned more about graphics, and I’d do a lot of writing.”
The job wasn’t always glamorous, but it was always providing her with new opportunities. “I used to have to do the grip-and-grins,” she said.
After her retirement three years ago, Ickroth further developed her keen interest in photography, which flourished as her international travels brought her around the world.
“I’ve been able to go to China, Kenya and all around Europe. Now, I have a lot of photos.”
With much of her extended family living in Ireland and some in Germany, she has had the opportunity to travel back and forth to Europe dozens of times. From the simple Irish lifestyle and majestic rocks carved over centuries in ancient China, there is never a moment that isn’t worth capturing.
After her hobby grew into a passion, she began to take photography much more seriously. “I’ve been really enjoying it,” she said. “I roam around with a camera in my pocketbook.”
She is no stranger to the easel and sketchpad, but it is the more modern form of story-telling that fascinates her ideas. Many aspects of art are tied together when Ickroth sets out with her lens.
“It’s like when you start to paint something,” she said. “You look for the beauty in nature, and I’m sometimes overwhelmed when I look at a scene. Many times, I don’t want to leave it, and with my camera, I never have to.”
She added her maiden name, Dyer, to her work as she began taking more pictures, hoping to establish a name and a reputation in the medium.
Her work spans everything from calming beach scenes to wildlife within its element, with the creatures that are her subjects oblivious to the awe they inspire in Ickroth. While individuals do not typically serve as the medium for her work, she has been known to go beyond a person’s presence in her photos. “I might do a close-up of someone, but usually I use the essence of people in my work.”
With her lens pointed, ready to attain a new masterpiece each time, Ickroth said she feels most comfortable and at home. “Once I got behind the camera,” she said, “it was like instant art. I still do some drawings and painting; but with photography, you can really manipulate it. You take what’s there and manipulate it. I look at the backgrounds and the patterns.”
Originally from Rockaway Point, N.Y., Ickroth said she had always had a love for the beach. After her husband, Hugh, retired from the Air Force, they decided to head to Delaware, a location that had served as a summer spot for their family for years.
“As soon as I saw Bethany,” she said, “it was so much like Rockaway Point, where I spent my summers in New York. It was a quiet resort; a lot of family-oriented things, lots of Irish people. Hugh and I spent a couple of summers coming here, then we decided this is where we were going to retire.”
Each time she sets out with her camera, Ickroth said, it’s a new adventure. “All of my family tells stories,” she said. “It’s part of the heritage, and I can tell my stories through what I see. I really like sharing that with others, but it’s also my art.”